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Businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Don’t take away their lifeline – Facebook’s David Fischer

By David Fischer, Chief Revenue Officer at Facebook

Starting a new business is always a risk, but it’s a risk that ambitious and talented people take every day across the world. Even during this time of great uncertainty, when doors are closed to foot traffic, people are finding ways to make it work. They’re moving business online, finding customers online, and interacting with new people, from new places, and exploring new markets.

The fact that so many businesses – with everything on the line – choose to invest their marketing dollars with Facebook is a privilege we don’t take lightly.

We know from years of experience that the best way for businesses of all sizes to make every marketing dollar count is to efficiently reach the customers they care about through targeted, digital ads. No matter how small a budget or business is, targeted marketing makes it possible to reach more people – wherever they are – than was ever possible by the (often prohibitively-expensive) channels of billboards, radio, or TV.

Moreover, it is increasingly clear that the shift to digital commerce we’re seeing now will long outlast the pandemic and social distancing. These trends have long felt inevitable, and now that they’re here, they’re here to stay. The internet – and all its benefits – have only become more deeply woven into the fabric of society. There’s no going back to where we were before.

And yet – despite the fact that targeted marketing is a proven lifeline for small businesses all over the world still struggling to stay afloat, the future of this vital tool is under threat.

To be clear, some of this is the result of people and their legislators who are concerned in good faith about data and its uses — where it goes, who has access to it, and how it can be used. To be clearer: so are we. Privacy and personalized advertising need not be at odds.

Indeed, Facebook has repeatedly called for greater regulation. We need better rules of the road: rules that respect the rights of people to choose what happens to their data; rules that encourage competition and innovation; and most importantly, rules that ensure the internet remains open and accessible for everyone.

Right now, however, there is a looming threat to the internet and all the businesses that rely on it, in the form of sweeping changes proposed by Apple that will disproportionately harm small businesses and developers that rely on personalized ads to reach the right people.

Free, ad-supported businesses have long been essential to the growth and vitality of the internet. Personalized advertising empowers these businesses to effectively invest their scarce resources, connect with customers and grow. Without personalized advertising, many new companies would never get off the ground. Online services that are offered to people for free, through an ad-supported business model, would not be able to survive. (And curiously, Apple’s own personalized ads aren’t subject to its new policy.)

Some companies – ours included – want to preserve the ad-supported internet and the competition and growth that thrives as a result of it. That’s what allows entrepreneurs, many of them small-business owners or the founder of tomorrow’s unicorn, to offer their products to the widest possible audience. This is particularly true in places where subscription services are unaffordable for most. We know some other companies think differently and are encouraging a subscription-based model that serves the wealthy but leaves far too many people priced out.

Now is not the time to take a key tool for growth from the hands of businesses with everything on the line. Now is the time to put more resources, more tools – more power – in the hands of entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Our industry may have challenges to navigate, but it’s a mistake to force businesses to pay more money to advertise to less relevant audiences, or force people to only see ads for products and services they’re not interested in.

At Facebook, we know there’s a path forward that both respects privacy and preserves the free, ad-supported internet on which so many small businesses depend. And we remain committed to working with governments and policymakers to find it.